The Jury

Emily Ellyn

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President of the Jury

What do you get when you mix down-home values with quirky up-town flair and a solid culinary education?
A deliciously unique cooking personality! Meet Celebrity Chef Emily Ellyn – Emily Ellyn is best known as the Retro Rad Chef from Food Network; appearing on “Food Network Star,” “Cupcake Wars” and most recently as the winner of “Cutthroat Kitchen.”

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She’s also a culinary educator and food writer, who writes for “edible” magazine and is the Cake Genius at “Cake Central” magazine. When she’s not busy writing or lecturing, you’ll find Emily cooking up fun at food and spirits events around the world.
Emily encourages everyone to dig through their mother’s recipe box, dust off their pressure cookers, and take the old and make it new.
Don’t miss this rising culinary star, with her trademark cat-eyed glasses, demonstrate her latest retro-recipe-redo of your favorite
classic dish.

Mario Rizzotti

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Judge

Mario Rizzotti is an acclaimed television personality and Italian culinary expert who has been educating food lovers in the U.S. on how to identify authentic Italian food products from those that are Italian sounding.

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TV audiences know him best as the seasoned yet approachable judge on The Food Network’s “Iron Chef America”, where he was called to judge Iron Chefs like Mario Batali, Michael Symon, Marc Forgione, Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto and more. Mario is often asked to Emcee and judge at numerous culinary events including Chicago Gourmet, Aspen Food and Wine, Bellavita Expo. He lives by a simple motto: “a meal is not the consumption of food, but a celebration of Dolce Vita”.

Ben Vaughn

Ben Vaughn image

Judge

Ben Vaughn is an award-winning chef, best-selling author, restaurateur and featured television personality. In addition, Ben is a husband, a father of four, and passionate about food.

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Ben’s love for accessible and delicious “people” food is what inspired him to write his latest book, “Southern Routes,” a Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune and Amazon.com Bestseller, which chronicles his journey to find the best family-owned restaurants from North Carolina to Texas, and share their recipes, culture, life and love for food.
For Ben, life is about sharing stories and amazing, approachable food with the hungry masses. Ben is a featured food columnist for The Daily Meal and the Las Vegas Sun. In addition to being a writer and author, Ben is a television host and personality featured on Food Network and A+E Networks programming with an upcoming show in 2016 on Travel Channel. Ben is also the host and co-producer of the digital series “The Breakfast Show” on the Small Screen Network.
From a culinary career that started in South Florida and flourished as he became chef/owner of trendsetting and critically acclaimed restaurants (River Oaks, Grace, Au Fond Farmtable, White Oak Kitchen) throughout the South winning Best New Restaurant for each, Ben’s true passion lies in great food and the stories that can be told through food. He sits on the culinary advisory board to National Food Day and serves as CEO and Culinary Director for his restaurant group Fork Knife Spoon, with an upcoming restaurant under wraps for now….!

Victoria Jordan Rodriguez

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Judge

A graduate of the French Culinary Institute, Victoria has also completed coursework in viticulture and vinification through the American Sommelier Association and spent the first 15 years of her career working in restaurants, working in both front and back of house.

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She was the general manager of The E. U., a restaurant in the East Village and a Manager at Jonathan Waxman’s Barbuto.
As the Director of House Operations and House Events for the James Beard Foundation, Victoria deals with the physical upkeep of the James Beard House, a 1800’s era, 4-story brick townhouse in the West Village that James Beard called home the last 15 years of his life. She also works with many of the chefs who come to cook at the Beard House, planning the logistics for those events and managing the waitstaff and porter team.
She grew up on a farm in Warren County, New Jersey where her father raised pheasants and she had a pony named Macaroni. She now lives in Jersey City with her husband Robert.

Sam Toia

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Judge

Since July 2012, Sam Toia has served as President & CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, a non-profit trade association representing the state’s largest private sector employer.

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He also serves as trustee of the association’s charitable arm, which awards dozens of scholarships annually to area high school students seeking further education in the field. Prior to his election, he served as the IRA’s Chairman of the Board.

As President & CEO of the IRA, Toia is responsible for managing day-to-day operations of the association, increasing its membership base, developing strategies to enhance its profitability and maintaining positive relations with public officials and state and local agencies. He is passionate about proposed federal, state and local issues affecting the hospitality industry.

Thomas L. Vaccaro

Chef Tom Vaccaro

Judge

Thomas Vaccaro is the Dean for Curriculum and Instruction for Baking and Pastry Arts at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA).

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Chef Vaccaro is responsible for developing the college’s baking and pastry arts curriculum, food and quality of instruction, identifying new faculty, and fostering student development.

A 1985 alumnus of the CIA, Chef Vaccaro joined the college’s administration in 2005. He returned to his alma mater from Atlantic City, where he was executive pastry chef at the Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino. He was also executive pastry chef at the Waldorf=Astoria in New York City and Trump’s Taj Mahal and Tropicana Casino and Entertainment Resort in Atlantic City.

Vaccaro is a Certified Executive Pastry Chef C.E.P.C.. And a Certified Master Baker C.M.B He was the American Culinary Federation’s National Pastry Chef of the Year in 2004. He coached the U.S. Culinary Team to many gold medals in the 1996, 2000, and the 2004 Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany and earned a perfect score in the pastry competition as the team’s pastry chef at the 1992 Culinary Olympics.

Throughout his illustrious career, Vaccaro has earned gold medals in competitions around the world, including Scotland (2001), Switzerland (1993 and 1999), Chicago (1992 and 1999), Orlando (2008, 09,10), New York (1990, 1996,1997,2008,09,10), and London (1992).

A native of Belleville, NJ, Chef Vaccaro is a member and former vice president of the South Jersey Professional Chefs Association.

Tom O’Brien

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Judge

Tom O’Brien is a professional food writer and recipe developer. He is a Contributing Editor to Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazine and has written for other trade publications such as Restaurant Business and Chef.

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He has developed more than 300 recipes for leading food manufacturers, advertising agencies and commodity boards. He is also a Contributing Faculty member at Kendall College, where he teaches Foodservice Public Relations and Food Writing to culinary students.

Siddharth Mangalore

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Judge

After completing his studies in the field of Culinary Arts from Mumbai, India, Siddharth Mangalore worked for a decade in some of the finer pastry kitchens around the world and in Chicago, such as The Peninsula Hotel and The Chicago Yacht Club.

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His quest for continuing education has since continued under various master pastry chefs such as Ewald Notter and Ralph Gottschalk. Along with teaching the art and skill to a new generation of pastry chefs, Mangalore’s prior experience as a Career Services Counselor allows him to counsel and guide students in making the right internship and career choices.

Matteo Picariello

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Judge

Matteo Picariello is Trade Commissioner at the Italian Trade Agency – Chicago Office (ITA), having also served in Sydney, Australia and Seoul, South Korea.

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A native of Italy, his secret passion is gelato and his goal is to find Italian food readily available wherever he travels, rather than having to bring it along in his luggage!

The ITA promotes Italian commerce abroad, organizing participation of Italian companies at events throughout the world, bringing Italy to Wine Tastings, Fancy Food shows, as well as Private Label and Retail events.

The Selection Jury


Emily Ellyn

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President of the Jury

What do you get when you mix down-home values with quirky up-town flair and a solid culinary education? A deliciously unique cooking personality!

Read more...

Meet Celebrity Chef Emily Ellyn – Emily Ellyn is best known as the Retro Rad Chef from Food Network; appearing on “Food Network Star,” “Cupcake Wars” and most recently as the winner of “Cutthroat Kitchen.” She’s also a culinary educator and food writer, who writes for “edible” magazine and is the Cake Genius at “Cake Central” magazine. When she’s not busy writing or lecturing, you’ll find Emily cooking up fun at food and spirits events around the world.
Emily encourages everyone to dig through their mother’s recipe box, dust off their pressure cookers, and take the old and make it new.
Don’t miss this rising culinary star, with her trademark cat-eyed glasses, demonstrate her latest retro-recipe-redo of your favorite
classic dish.

Ben Vaughn

Ben Vaughn image

Judge

Ben Vaughn is an award-winning chef, best-selling author, restaurateur and featured television personality.

Read more...

In addition, Ben is a husband, a father of four, and passionate about food. Ben’s love for accessible and delicious “people” food is what inspired him to write his latest book, “Southern Routes,” a Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune and Amazon.com Bestseller, which chronicles his journey to find the best family-owned restaurants from North Carolina to Texas, and share their recipes, culture, life and love for food.
For Ben, life is about sharing stories and amazing, approachable food with the hungry masses. Ben is a featured food columnist for The Daily Meal and the Las Vegas Sun. In addition to being a writer and author, Ben is a television host and personality featured on Food Network and A+E Networks programming with an upcoming show in 2016 on Travel Channel. Ben is also the host and co-producer of the digital series “The Breakfast Show” on the Small Screen Network.
From a culinary career that started in South Florida and flourished as he became chef/owner of trendsetting and critically acclaimed restaurants (River Oaks, Grace, Au Fond Farmtable, White Oak Kitchen) throughout the South winning Best New Restaurant for each, Ben’s true passion lies in great food and the stories that can be told through food. He sits on the culinary advisory board to National Food Day and serves as CEO and Culinary Director for his restaurant group Fork Knife Spoon, with an upcoming restaurant under wraps for now….!

Dr. Robert Bradley

Dr. Robert Bradley photo

Judge

During his tenure in Food Science his research activities focused on the general area of food products development, ultra-filtration and reverse osmosis, frozen dessert technology, analytical methods of food analysis and sensory evaluation of dairy foods.

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Dr. Bradley has over 100 peer reviewed technical articles, book chapters and one book on butter manufacturing. He holds 4 U.S. patents concerning dairy food processing. 

Luciana Polliotti

Luciana Polliotti - PIC

Judge

Luciana Polliotti is an Italian journalist and historian specialized in artisan gelato and cooking. She has collaborated with newspapers, magazines, radio, and television, including names like Einaudi, Feltrinelli, and Lupetti-Editori di Comunicazione.

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She published Gelati, Gelati in 1999, which that year became one of the top five food books worldwide and Book of the Year in Italy, winning the Versailles World Cookbook Award from ICR, The International Cookbook Revue. One of the founders of the Gelato World Cup and Gelato at the Table, she is currently in charge of public relations for the organizing committees of the two events.